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Sufjan Stevens

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Sufjan Stevens Album Reviews

One of the most consistently fascinating musicians to emerge in the 21st century, Sufjan Stevens is nominally an alt-folk singer, with his hushed and vulnerable vocals and use of acoustic instruments. But that’s underselling his talents – he’s also a talented and sophisticated arranger, especially on the more ambitious pieces on 2005’s Illinois, and he’s also dabbled in electronically based music, notably on 2010’s The Age of Adz. He’s named classical works, notably Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, as influential, and there’s clearly far more to Steven’s oeuvre than straightforward folk music.

Stevens also gained attention early in his career by announcing plans to make an album for every state of the USA – after making albums for Michigan and Illinois, he later admitted it was a promotional gimmick. While he’s releasing albums to a mainstream audience, Stevens identifies as a Christian, and his faith permeates his lyrics. I assumed that Steven’s best years were behind him after Illinois, but he came back with 2015’s introspective masterpiece Carrie and Lowell, a strong contender for album of the year in many music publications.

I haven’t covered his first two albums (2000’s A Sun Came and 2001’s Enjoy Your Rabbit) – I’ve never heard them, and they’re generally overlooked in favour of his later work. Outside the studio albums covered, he’s also released a lot of other work including a box-set of Christmas music, an instrumental multimedia project (The BQE), and an album of Illinois out-takes (The Avalanche).

Ten Favourite Sufjan Stevens Songs

Casimir Pulaski Day
Should Have Known Better
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
All The Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands
Jacksonville
The Upper Peninsula
That Dress Looks Nice On You
Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Step Mother!
Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

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Michigan Sufjan Stevens Review

Michigan – Sufjan Stevens

2003, 7.5/10. The first in a series of fifty proposed albums chronicling every state of America, Michigan chronicles Sufjan’s native state.

Seven Swans Sufjan Review

Seven Swans – Sufjan Stevens

2004, 8.5/10. The gentle Seven Swans is firmly focused on Steven’s folk material, with lyrics that explore Christian themes.

Sufjan Stevens Illinoise

Illinois – Sufjan Stevens

2005, 9.5/10. A more confident state album, Illinois delivers both introspective folk and grandiose overblown epics.

Sufjan Stevens The Age of Adz

The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens

The Age of Adz (2010), ?/10 Still absorbing this – I like it, but it’s my least favourite of Sufjan’s … Continue Reading The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens

carrie-and-lowell-sufjan-stevens

Carrie and Lowell – Sufjan Stevens

2015, 10/10. The painful personal Carrie and Lowell is a return to the folk approach of Seven Swans.

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